Luka Modric says his boss Jose Mourinho is the best possible coach for Real Madrid, and that they are the favourites to win this season's Champions League.
Speculation continues to be rife in the Spanish media that Mourinho and Real president Florentino Perez are set to "divorce" next summer, with Tuesday's Marca claiming current Paris St Germain coach Carlo Ancelotti or Germany boss Jogi Low were being lined up to replace the Special One at the Bernabeu.
Speaking on Monday, Modric said he hoped that Mourinho - who last May signed a new contract tying him to the club until 2016 - would remain at Madrid for many more years.
"All I can say is that he has a long contract with Real Madrid and that he is the best possible coach that we could have," Modric said. "I hope he stays here for a long time."
Madrid's inconsistent start to the season has seen Barcelona build an 11-point lead in La Liga, leading to a sense that Mourinho's must deliver Madrid's long awaited tenth European Cup (la decima) to silence his critics in Spain.
Modric said that if his side performed as they did in Saturday's comprehensive 2-0 defeat of neighbours Atletico Madrid they would be a match for anyone in Europe this season.
"If we play like we did against Atletico then we are the favourites to win the Champions League," he said. "That is the way to go. If we carry on with the attitude and the passion we showed in the last match then we are the favourites."
The Croatian midfielder was speaking to journalists ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Ajax at the Bernabeu. With eight points from their first five Group D matches, Madrid are guaranteed to qualify in second position regardless of the result, while Ajax need to win to ensure they finish third ahead of Manchester City and progress to the Europa League knock-out rounds.
"Ajax are a very strong team and have a chance of qualifying for the Europa League tomorrow," he said. "I played against them twice with Dinamo Zagreb, and they are a very good team. Christian Eriksen is a very talented player and very important for them."
With Xabi Alonso being rested to make sure he does not pick up another yellow card and miss Madrid's last 16 first leg through suspension, Modric is likely to start Tuesday night in a deep playmaking position. The former Tottenham man said that was where he felt most comfortable, but he was adapting his game to deal with the demands of playing for a team as big as Madrid.
"I am adapting well," he said. "My favourite position, where I am most comfortable and play the best, is in the centre of the pitch along with Xabi or (Sami) Khedira. You cannot compare Tottenham to Madrid. Madrid is the best team in the world and expectations are much higher here. Mourinho wants me to play as I did at Tottenham, but faster and more aggressively. I am progressing well and now I understand what the coach wants from me."